You’re in the room with your client and you’re ready to set the direction for the next step in your engagement. You’ve thoroughly heard the client’s position and you’ve managed to get yours on the table as well.
Now, how do you build a bridge between the two positions toward a new co-created direction?
Here’s are six ways to build strong client ownership—and reduce the chance of client sabotage later–as you discuss which route to take:
1. Explore Multiple Options
Your clients will feel most empowered when they perceive they are in a problem-solving discussion with you, choosing from among options you have generated together. On the other hand, if they perceive you only want them to go in one direction (yours) they’ll be more defensive and will push back on your approach.
2. Follow your Client’s Enthusiasm
As you generate multiple options, notice your client’s enthusiasm. It’s much easier to build on the ideas they already buy into than to try to rope them into your own corral.
3. Acknowledge Their Good Ideas
You may have heard the same exact comments a hundred times from a hundred other clients but they’re new to this client. So, build on your clients’ good ideas, however obvious, and let them know you appreciate their contributions.
4. Tie Down Agreements
Every time you hear a “yes” tie it down with specifics. Play back what you’ve heard and close on each agreement no matter how small. Clarify who will do it, when it will be done, and what specifically will be done. This increases your client’s commitment to move forward, and also creates more accountability along the way.
5. 2-4 Options is a Good Range
Very few clients want consultants to recommend a multitude of options; it’s overwhelming to sort through everything. However, you’ll find that if you can create at least two or three options from which to choose the conversation will move out of “right and wrong” territory into the “let’s look these over together and talk about it” zone.
6. Be a Content Expert, but Don’t Take Over the Conversation
Yes, you’re the expert, but clients will appreciate the chance to chew over the possibilities and even suggest a few ideas of their own. Remember: the more your client collaborates with you on the hard decisions, the more you’ll have support when you hit the inevitable bumps in the road that come up later.
Authored For S3 Solutions by Marty Friedman
Marty Friedman is one of the architects of the “Power of Partnership”, a training course for consultants and solution sales professionals who want to sell bigger deals and have smoother projects. He has co-presented this training for clients such as HP, Accenture, and Bell Canada as well as many mid-sized companies and start-ups. Find out more at www.PowerofPartnership.net